In a career spanning sixteen years Steven Gerrard has rarely let his club or country down. He is the epitome of a one club player but now he will be remembered for a mistake that could cost his beloved Liverpool the Premier League title. In injury time at the end of the first half of the crucial match at Anfield Gerrard’s mistake led to Chelsea’s first goal.
At the start of last Sunday Liverpool were ridiculously short at 1.2 to lay on Betfair to win the title for the first time in 24 years. After two pivotal matches they are now second favourites behind Manchester City and Chelsea are now right back in the mix. Gerrard more than most realises the significance of Liverpool winning the league in the year of the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.
In 2005 Gerrard looked almost certain to sign for Chelsea. However, in the weeks after winning the Champions League with the club he supports Gerrard decided not to leave. His reasoning was that he would prefer to win one league championship with Liverpool than any number with another club.
At the time of writing the current England captain has played 666 times for Liverpool in all competitions and scored 173 goals. His current tally of 13 league goals was only bettered once since 1998. Despite playing in a deeper role Gerard is still scoring at a decent rate from midfield, though he does take the penalties.
Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, accused Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea team of parking two buses and using underhand tactics to waste time. However, it is significant that Luis Suarez had his most ineffectual game of the season against Chelsea and the match was a tactical masterpiece from the Special One.
Liverpool had won eleven league games in succession up until last Sunday. They had their destiny in their own hands and the momentum from beating Chelsea would surely have seen them through to a first title for 24 years. Now if Manchester City win their last three matches they will be champions for the second time in three years.
After Liverpool lost last weekend City beat Crystal Palace relatively comfortably. Dropped points in that would have handed the initiative back but a team led by Yaya Toure picked up maximum points against a Palace side with little to play for. City scored early and settled the match before half time with a second goal.
By the time Liverpool next play they could be third in the table. City’s next game is away to Everton who are still trying to qualify for the Champions league. This fixture throws up a scenario in which a win for Everton could virtually hand the title to their great rivals Liverpool.
Football fans on Merseyside have been relishing the demise of David Moyes and Manchester United. They were saying Moyes finally got Everton into the Champions League be leaving then. However, Everton were massively disappointing in losing to Southampton especially as the match was decided by two own goals.
Many Evertonians have not forgiven Moyes for leaving the club and making offers for Leighton Baines and Maroune Fellaini that were seen as derisory. They now love Roberto Martinez but ultimately this will be a disappointing season if they do not finish in the top four. Arsenal are massive favourites for the final Champions League place and defeat to City would mean fifth place is the best that Everton can achieve.
Martinez is taking the positives from the situation by saying the club and team have made progress since Moyes left. However, he must be privately absolutely gutted that two defeats in recent weeks against Crystal Palace at home and Southampton have cost the club dear. It must be even more galling n view of the fact both those clubs could not qualify for Europe and were safe from relegation.
Manuel Pellegrini was given a target of five trophies in as many years as manager of City. In winning the Capital One Cup he has reached his quota but it would be seen as underachieving if another trophy is not secured. At the start of February they were backed to win the quadruple and if City are not champions Pellegrini could lose his job.
The club now seem to have a culture that combines the benefits of the new wealth and some of the old traditions. The hierarchy may realise that nurturing Pellegrini rather than sacking him is the best policy which means he will have more time to present his philosophy to the players and the owners.
Amidst all the carnage in Manchester and Liverpool Mourinho continues to get the best out of Chelsea. This is a side without a consistent goal scorer that could still win the Champions League and Premier League. Despite the nature of their matches Chelsea can get a result when it matters most and that is down to Mourinho’s management and tactical awareness.
Chelsea are still big outsiders of three and need both Liverpool and City to drop points. Momentum is massive in sport which will now count against Liverpool. City are now on a winning run so I can see them beating Everton, picking up maximum points from their last two matches and thwarting Liverpool in general and Steven Gerrard in particular.